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:: October 16, 2003 ::
Mother wrests control of minor children from "cult" through court ruling

Shana Muse, a former member of the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) in Spindale, North Carolina, has been separated from her four children more than a year.

When Muse left the controversial church, which has been called a "cult," members arranged to take custody away from the confused mother.

It seems that they felt the mother's parental rights should be superceded by the church's prerogatives.

At first it looked like the church might prevail, since its members wield considerable clout in the small southern town.

The founder and virtual dictator of WOFF is Jane Whaley, a woman that is used to getting her way in Spindale.

WOFF is known for its authoritarian structure, harsh discipline and the bizarre practice of "blasting" members with shouted prayers for supposed deliverance.

One couple within the tight knit communal group kept Muse's children and claimed they had legal custody through a rather contrived contract, that was signed by the mother when she fled the church to seek professional counseling.

Muse's struggle to regain custody became a public battle. But this month a district court judge finally put an end to her ordeal and ordered the four minor children out of WOFF reported the Daily Courier.

"I had trust in God...it's a happy day and a sad day because I know what my kids are going through," the mother said.

At first after the court ruling church members apparently hid the children, but eventually they were surrendered to authorities reported the Daily Courier.

The family reunion will be delayed by a transition period that could take months, managed by the Department of Social Services.

The judge ruled decisively though against WOFF.

He stated for the record that "the environment created at WOFF has an adverse effect on the health, safety and welfare of children." And added he found "clear and convincing evidence the children were abused and neglected by isolation, excessive corporal punishment and blasting while at WOFF."

The WOFF family that kept the children over the past year was denied visitation. And the children are restricted from setting foot on church property.

An interesting footnote was the employ of cult apologist Dick Anthony by WOFF to assist in its legal effort to keep the minor children from returning to their mother.

Anthony charges $3,500.00 per day for his services plus expenses.

The self-described "forensic psychologist" sat in the courtroom scribbling notes in an apparent effort to somehow help his client spin a defense against allegations of "cult" abuse.

However, despite the big bill Anthony must have sent someone in the group, he completely failed to have a positive affect on the case's outcome.

Jane Whaley and WOFF have suffered a severe and very public setback.

Whaley may rule over her flock like a queen, but she has found there are limits to her power. And it seems the political influence she has historically enjoyed in the town of Spindale has hit an impasse.

As for Shana Muse she still has difficult journey ahead. The estranged mother must work to restore a meaningful relationship with her four children, who have been under the control of Whaley and her faithful followers for some time.

"The court finds that WOFF authorities attempt to exercise complete control over the mind, body and spirit of its members, both adults and children," the judge's ruling read.

It is likely that Muse will require professional help to break the hold WOFF may still have over her children's young minds.

[Posted by Rick Ross at 05:52 PM][Link]
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